Earlier this year, House Bill 303 came into action. This new bill minimizes one of the biggest threats to both criminals and non-criminals arrested by the police: civil asset forfeiture. Before this year, law enforcement could seize any property that they believe played a part in your supposed crime. Many officers abused this system and seized hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade, and the majority of assets they acquired were from low-income workers.
Thanks to the new law, the government must prove that the owner’s property was involved in the crime, there is stricter enforcement on what can count as evidence and the owner no longer must pay 10 percent of the property’s value before they can challenge the case in court. It serves as a major step forward in offering the arrested party more rights and less unfair treatment that could financially devastate them.
However, it will not completely stop the police from seizing your car after your arrest. While you may have more options to save your assets now, you should be aware of how the state’s law enforcement can still seize your property.
They can still seize before a conviction
Despite the new bill placing a larger emphasis on “innocent until proven guilty” law enforcement, there is currently no requirement for police to seize your property until after your conviction. This means if the police have good reason to believe your car played a huge role in your crime, they can take it and leave you without a ride to the courtroom or wherever you need to go until the trial.
One of the bigger controversies of the new bill is that it does not address the federal program which can grant agencies to bypass state laws and collect up to 80 percent of the assets. It is a massive loophole that local and state police have taken advantage of for years. Unfortunately, given that it is a federal issue, states that attempt to close this loophole could see retaliatory actions taken by the government.
Some are too used to the system
While many officers will adhere to the new bill and will make efforts to avoid disobeying it, some may require more adjustment. The American Civil Liberties Union recently highlighted the ongoing struggles in New Mexico. While the state has some of the strongest laws in the nation set to prevent civil asset forfeiture, they still experience some of the same problems after passing them three years ago.
Even if these new laws may not completely prevent the police from unfairly seizing your assets, they do give you more of a fighting chance in the courtroom. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you take advantage of this new bill in the event that an officer hurt you financially by taking something they shouldn’t have.